Autumn is upon us. With the beginning of September the season change is immediate, as though a switch has been flicked and on cue the leaves start to turn and the temperature dips, not much, but enough to need a sweater in the evening. Dusk is around a quarter to eight now and the night smells of bonfires and fresh, cool air. Our rose consumption softly gives way to dahlias and autumnal fruits, the washed-out pinks and creams of summer to bronzes and coppers and all those leaves tinged with lime or freckled pink or streaked with russet. It is my favourite season - foggy mornings and witchy dusks.
In August Steffi came to visit from Belgium, where she hopes to grow her own flowers for weddings and events, and she spent a few days with us for some flower lessons and experience of working on a wedding. Having her around was such a pleasure and we are still missing her insatiable curiosity about flowers and ways of working with them. Sometimes, the act of teaching is in itself a lesson. You strip things back to basics and start over and new ideas are formed and chewed over in the process. Those few days brought back all the reasons we started arranging and growing flowers and helped us to prioritise and solidify our plans for the future with fresh eyes. Some women are beyond inspiring. Steffi has three children, all tiny, she has a successful career already and she is full of wanderlust and boundless energy for ambitious new projects; staying up until the early hours practising flower arranging and swatting up on growing for cutting; we know she will do great things.
Our class was in late August, that intervening, equidistant moment between the seasons, when it is still dress and sandals weather but crisp leaves have already started littering the garden. Jess and I gathered together the flowers of summer and autumn. Side by side they seemed to signify a changeover in weather, metamorphosis. Garden roses with dahlias, sweetpeas with wild carrot and cosmos, wild clematis with apple boughs.
Steffi, it was apparent immediately, understands nature and how to treasure it and decorate with it in a way that is unforced and graceful. The bouquet during our class was artistic and well balanced and full of the wisps and dips and exclamation points that elevate a bunch of beautiful flowers to a sculptural arrangement of alchemy and movement. Looking at the photographs of it makes me feel emotional somehow. Our own-grown flowers, sown and planted months ago, cut in Hampshire, driven to London, arranged by an emerging florist from Belgium. Quite a journey those tiny seeds made.
I will never grow tired of garden roses. I sometimes daydream that when Jess and I are little shrunken old ladies, if we're lucky enough to make it that far, we will have a shared garden, a sea of roses and there we'll prune and bicker and giggle just as we do now. Shadowy sprays of little rosette flowers and buds, some unyielding, some half open. Those with petals that are so thin they are like tissue paper, translucent, and then dusted with pink like the fine iridescence that you see on moth's wings if you look very closely.
And those dahlias, the much admired cafe au lait that from the back are streaked with pink - sometimes they are almost more beautiful from behind! I painted my living room recently and those streaks are just like the lines the paint brush made in that rich, creamy paint.
You can follow Steffi's magical work on her new Instagram account, here. Thank you, lovely lady, for coming all that way and making beautiful flowers with us for those few days in August. Come back soon!